Through theatre exercises and performances, the Center for Applied Drama and Autism has helped children and teens better adapt to social situations in their lives and develop positive creative outlets. Now, adults on the autism spectrum will be able to enjoy drama and performance through the organization’s Theatre on the Spectrum classes.
Laura Valendza and Wendy Duke, founders of the Center for Applied Drama and Autism, began the organization in 2014. They met at Miller South School for the Visual & Performing Arts, where Duke was a drama instructor and Valendza was an intervention specialist.
“We noticed that more and more young people with autism were joining my theatre program,” Duke said. “We observed that theatre was an attraction for autistic youth because it provides a safe space for all actors to explore their potential and have fun at the same time. The more we worked together to employ our theatre training to help young people with autism, the more we wanted to continue doing so!”
Acting classes are hosted Monday through Saturday, with youth classes held on Saturdays and new adult classes taking place Monday through Friday in the afternoons. During these times, students will learn the history of theatre and disability, along with performance and acting skills, with special focuses such as play-writing or comedy.
“Theatre training is very useful for people with autism and other disabilities,” Duke said. “It empowers and provides practice in learning how to handle social situations, reading body language, exploring vocal qualities and character and other practical skills that are known to be challenges for people on the spectrum.”
With original works of plays and musicals in production, drama students will have the opportunity to perform. Some current students will perform on June 3 at the Summit Stage Fest in Highland Square. Stage Fest is a new festival that will feature theatre performances in the same manner of Highland Square’s popular PorchRokr event. Also, later in June, students will perform for Kenmore’s Open Streets.